Slow progress in addressing water levels

Low water levels continue – Ault Island resident Cliff Steinburg (right) and South Stormont mayoral candidate Bryan McGillis stand along the shoreline at Steinburg’s residence. Water levels along Lake St. Lawrence are the lowest they have been in 20 years and sit at the minimum allowed for safe shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

AULT ISLAND – The low water levels on Lake St. Lawrence continue to impact residents throughout South Stormont and South Dundas.

Ault Island resident Cliff Steinburg has been trying to make headway with the governing international board that manages the levels, the International Joint Commission, St. Lawrence River Board, for months and is finally starting to get somewhere.

Since the September 11th meeting in Long Sault, Steinburg has continued pushing forward on the Canadian side of the waterway, working to get modifications made to Plan 2014. That plan uses scientific data and computer models to manage water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River flowing into Lake St. Francis.

“I keep in contact with the Wilson Hill group and with [Rob] Caldwell,” Steinburg told The Leader. Caldwell is with Environment and Climate Change Canada and liaisons with the IJC-SLR board.
Steinburg said he has found support for the area’s issues with water levels from IJC Canadian board member Marc Hudon.

“He is working with us to be able to present our issues to the IJC’s GLAM group,” he said.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management is the technical group within the IJC that does the scientific and impact analysis of the water levels, and makes recommendations to the IJC board.

“Without the GLAM on side, there won’t be any changes,” Steinburg said.

In addition to working with Hudon and trying to get the GLAM on board for changes, Steinburg is also working on putting pressure on senior levels of government. This is an approach similar to the Wilson Hill group on the US side of the border. That group has enlisted support from local House of Representatives member Elise Stefanik.

“We hope to do that same with our local, provincial, and federal politicians,” Steinburg said.

He said the idea is if there is pressure to act from the government to the IJC, and from the technical team within the IJC, he hopes the board will act.

With that, Steinburg has already enlisted the support of South Stormont mayoral hopeful Bryan McGillis.

“I am involved in pushing this forward even if I am not elected,” McGillis said. “The river levels through South Stormont is the most important issue facing the township. It impacts everything.”
Steinburg said that the process for dealing with the GLAM will be slow, but take place over the fall and winter months. “It won’t help for this year, but for future years hopefully, so that the next time we have low water levels, it won’t be this bad” he said.